From start to Finnish: A Belmont kitchen gets the Scandinavian treatment

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A trained chef, Ingrid Cordano started designing her kitchen before anything else in the house. She wanted it to be an oasis for her, but a convenient gathering spot for her four-person family, too. Photo: Christian Hommel A trained chef, Ingrid Cordano started designing her kitchen before anything else in the house. She wanted it to be an oasis for her, but a convenient gathering spot for her four-person family, too. Photo: Christian Hommel

Ingrid Cordano and her husband are experts in kitchen design.

“This is the third kitchen we’ve designed during our marriage,” she said. And it shows. The Cordanos’ Belmont home is a modern treasure that feels fresh and light at first pass: long, straight lines converge into interesting architectural features punctuated by bright, lively colors. And everything has been carefully conceived.

Photo: Christian Hommel
Photo: Christian Hommel

The Cordanos bought the Belmont lot a few years before they began working on designing their forever home. They chose to work with Latitude 38, a local design and build firm that specializes in ecofriendly construction with a distinctly modern aesthetic. Construction began in October 2012 and the house was ready for move-in in June of 2013.

“For me, the kitchen needs to be in the center of the house,” she said. “It’s where I spend 85 percent of my time. It needed to have access to what is going on around the house, especially with young kids.”

Ultimately, Cordano wanted a kitchen that was accessible to the family, but not so much so that she would get no alone time. When she is cooking, Cordano is focused, so she designed a space where the most often-used items—dishes for everyday dinner, silverware, or even napkins—would be at the easy disposal of her daughters, ages 6 and 4. Take the dishwasher: It sits adjacent to a low drawer that stores plates, cups, and pots, so emptying it does not become an Olympic event of coordination and agility.

Photo: Christian Hommel
Photo: Christian Hommel

Cordano is a chef and an engineer by trade. After graduating from UVA, she and her husband moved to New York City, where she attended culinary school and became a personal chef. “That justified having a big kitchen,” she said, with a proud smile.

The space is indeed large, but it doesn’t overrun the nearby TV room or the central staircase that leads to the sleeping quarters.

Modern appliances and light, non-contrasting materials adorn every surface of the space, another hint that the kitchen was built before the rest of the house.

Cordano admits to one extravagance.

“I designed a lot of the kitchen around a dish-drying cabinet,” she said. “In Finland, where I was born and spend a lot of time, we have things called drying cabinets instead of having a dish drainer on the counter.” The cabinet rests on one end of a butcher block countertop that runs the entire length of a wall of windows.

Convenience is king in Cordano's kitchen, where she and Latitude 38 incorporated smart features like a drying cabinet, appliance garage, and large drawers for pots and pans. Photo: Christian Hommel
Convenience is king in Cordano’s kitchen, where she and Latitude 38 incorporated smart features like a drying cabinet, appliance garage, and large drawers for pots and pans. Photo: Christian Hommel

Cordano’s Finnish heritage is evident in other design choices, too—from the white IKEA cabinets to the appliances to the white speckled countertop. The eye moves from place to place with ease and relaxation.

“I know white is trendy, but for me, white is timeless,” she said. “I wanted something that felt Scandinavian.”

The sink sits next to the drying cabinet. The opposite leg of the U-shaped space is reserved for the big refrigerator and the cooktop, which is surrounded by more cabinetry.

The long butcher-block countertop is a handy office space for Cordano, who admits to moving her computer to that spot for late-night Internet browsing. During the day, the countertop houses small appliances used in everyday cooking.

Her favorite feature, however, is the view from the window above the butcher block counter. The light hits the right spots all day long and the sun shines through big, wide windows, which are elevated enough from the working space that they preserve a little intimacy and privacy from the neighbors.

“I think that it is within everyone’s grasp to design a good kitchen,” she said. Her advice? “Just write down all the tasks that you have to do in the kitchen on a day-to-day basis and you can fine-tune the design based on that.”

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